Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book of the Week

Well I did it!  Two weeks in a row with my weekly book!  (I just know this is not going to last.)

The book I read this week was on the recommendation of my friend Stephanie, whose book-taste I trust like no other.

When I first saw the title I was not too interested-it seemed extreme and just some made up idea to write a book about.  But something about Stephanie's review drew me in and I ended up with this book on my big stack, interrupting my WWII binge.  

And I loved it-is was nothing like I thought it would be.  She is an ordinary person (meaning lives a normal, non-extreme way of family life when it comes to food) and after watching a You-Tube video (this one-it's long and I didn't make it all the way through but far enough) she decided she wanted to make some changes. She also LOVES dessert and is a baker-her description of herself when she was little I could just totally relate to. Once she did something naughty and the worse things her parents could think to punish her with was no desserts for a month.  She described it as torturous.  Chapter 1 is titled, "I Love Sugar."  

She chronicles the year, the exceptions she made (which gave me some great guidelines for myself) and the things she observed.  The book is also super informative but not in a boring way.  She is so funny. 

Sugar is added into almost everything.  If you want to be frustrated, go to the grocery store and look at most ingredients (I had to remember to bring my glasses) in all packaged food.  Sugar in pesto? Sugar in all bread? Sugar in spaghetti sauce?  Sugar in all snack food but one type of pretzel (Snyder's Hard Pretzels) and plain potato chips?  Sugar in soup?  Sugar in "healthy" yogurt? EVERYTHING.  Maybe one or two types of cereal?  HELLO!!! It's gross, seriously gross.  And sometimes it is disguised by a bunch of different names, but it's still the same old sugar.

Add on top of all that the obvious desserts-this is not even considering the sugar-laden fast food and pop-and here we have the health crisis we are facing today.

TWO AND A HALF POUND OF SUGAR per WEEK is the average amount ingested per person. I picture cutting the 5 pound bag we buy in half and spooning that into each of our mouths-double gross.  

Another eye-opening thing-how much our kids ingest-how much is given to them in treats every day at school, at every function, at every holiday.  (I think I have written on this before-just general overkill in every area of raising kids today-'a cupcake and juice box after a soccer game, don't forget your Gatorade syndrome' it could be called.)  

"My sugar-distant vantage point was giving me a unique view of the holiday season, and I was shocked at what I saw.  I realized that is had become SO cheap and SO easy to hand a child a treat that inflation had set in. No longer is it sufficient for the teacher to bring the kids each a doughnut-there had to be a pile of candy next to it. No longer is it sufficient for kids to get a single treat at each house, now many houses go to the trouble of packing little paper candy bags full of several treats each. No longer is it sufficient to have a treat of two (or fourteen) from the candy bag that night; we have to provide dessert on top of that. Because what else do you do?  It's Halloween! Or Christmas! Or Valentine's Day! Or somebody's birthday! Or you're just feeling depressed! Or happy!"

If our body processes sugar like it would a poison, are we not poisoning our kids (and ourselves) slowly?

The cool thing with this book, believe it or not, is I didn't walk away feeling panicked and like I had to start tossing everything in our cupboard and freaking my kids out, giving away all their Halloween candy and never baking cookies again.

Our sugar consumption as a country has risen  dramatically-when sugar was once a very occasional treat, is now us dumping it down our throats every day...  

Image result for graph of sugar consumption in the US
...and I wanted to get back to the "treat' stage after reading this book.  Taking it out of every day things that weren't even meant to be sweet, and making it something to look forward to occasionally with something very special.  

And then maybe when we lose the constant sweetness in our diet we become more sensitive to that sweet taste like the author and her family did, so we don't need so much of it (cups and cups!) in the cookie or the banana bread or the cake, which is also a great way to cut down.  The author did such a good job describing this-how her taste buds changed and how she came to think of that special treat she allowed them once a month as something really special-not some store-bought cookie, or junkie piece of candy, but took the time to make it "worth" it-

"I had come to understand that while sugar is fun, it is nutritionally expensive-why would I want to waste my allotment of it on vending machine candy or breakfast cereal?  Why not save it for something truly special?"

So that is what I am doing here.  I have a set of rules for myself that still allow me to have my special treats, just very occasionally on holidays and birthdays, (back to a modified whole30 after August wreaked havoc) and I'm reading labels at the store and searching for better alternatives for my family. I keep giving the kids little facts that I've read in the book and they are working with me to get even more health conscious than ever.  I still have a few transitions to make (Jif and grape jelly) but I feel like we are heading in the right direction.


  1. I'm so glad it made a positive impact on you, too! But if you are ready to get back into your WW2 binge, add Everyone Brave is Forgiven to your list. I just finished it and loved it.

  2. Thanks for the book reviews. I have enjoyed many of the titles that you have recommended. If there is an Aldi food store by you, I have found that their SimplyNature line provides many Wholeo30 compliant items, at great prices.

  3. For the Jif and grape Jelly - here is a simple solution. Skippy has less sugar in it. Not a whole lot but it's a start and I buy smuckers low sugar grape and strawberry jelly. They have marmalade too but that is harder to find. It's made with real sugar (no artificial sweeteners) and is half the sugar of regular jelly. We use light slice bread too. I made this change to cut back on carbs and a pbj sandwich is now half the carbs it once was. My son does not know the difference. These changes are more expensive but worth it for me health wise.

  4. I would love to know what your modified whole30 rules are. I am trying to tweak it myself, and I am having trouble deciding whether legumes are that harmful for us after all, and if a little cream in my coffee now and again is such a bad thing...
    I love your blog. Thank you for being such a voice of reason and for sharing your beautiful family with us!

    1. Hi Mary! Here is what I am doing:

      My exceptions to Whole30: ketchup, pita bread only at my one favorite restaurant (we go about once a month) and any restaurant vinaigrette dressing (again only when out to eat, which isn't often.) I also found great sweet potato chips at the grocery store that aren't strict whole30 as they are fried in vegetable oil, but I have a small handful of those at lunch. I will also eat beans if they are in healthy recipes that are Whole30 compatible. (And am working on replacing a few meat dinners with just beans for the family.) And butter-I am not making ghee for the rest of my life, although I don't really use it much for cooking, preferring olive oil.

      So I can do this long term, and the no-sugar thing also, I am going to do a 'once a month any treats I want on one day rule', which will coincide nicely with holidays and birthdays. (That way I am not depriving myself of my favorites but having them just one day, not all season long.)

      I love baking cookies, and it's sort of a weekly or bi-weekly tradition here, something that would make me sad to give up, so when I do that, I am allowing myself up to five cookies, not more than ONCE a week, on that day. (I am trying to adapt recipes to have a little less sugar also.) That might seem like a lot but it's not to pre-whole30 me. :)

      This is what I came up with recently after doing a strict whole90, going backwards a little bit slowly, and then realizing I crave and need the structure and boundaries and rules and nutrition of Whole30, but also want to be slightly adaptable so as to not feel I'm missing the special occasions and treats that I adore.

      I am hoping this works for me long term-we will see.

  5. I want to read that book! I'm sure you will get tons of comments about this but homemade peanut butter is super fun for littles to make! I buy roasted salted peanuts in bulk. I let my 5 year old pour the peanuts in my food processor and then she gets to put the lid on and press the buttons. It's takes about 5 minutes to get it really smooth but she likes pressing the high/low buttons and is easily entertained with that! Homemade peanut butter does take a bit of getting used to compared to JIF but once your tastes bud acclimate it is truly a treat! Also she loves that everyone is eating the peanut butter that she made so it's extra special :)

  6. You two are my favorite bloggers. I guess I should go find that book! No-sugar PB is wonderful. You taste the peanuts--imagine that--and not the sugar. I hope you'll blog about switching "this" for "that"...I'd be very interested!

  7. The sugar habit is so bad! I remember a couple years ago realizing how much sugar my kids eat every day--especially when they drink a Gatorade during a soccer game, then get some "treat" afterwards--all before lunch! I was horrified! So, now we almost always do water during sports, because unless they are really intense athletes, that's all they really need.

    I can't get my kids to eat natural peanut butter, although I eat the Smucker's version. I love it. So tasty. I did buy Skippy because I had a coupon, instead of Jif, and one of my kids said they like it a lot better than Jif. It's so hard to break old habits!

  8. I cringe every time I look at the jams and jellies in the store, they are so full of junk. This year I have a goal to make all the jam/jelly we will need. Freezer jam is super easy and much lower in sugar than most cooked jams, and I've read great reviews of Pomona's Pectin, which is for regular cooked jam/jelly and doesn't require any sugar to set up. It might cost a little more (money and time) to buy the berries or other fruit and make it yourself, but to me it is worth it--both for the health benefits and because the quality and taste are so much better than you can buy in the store. And it really doesn't take that long, just a few hours and you can have a year's worth set aside in your pantry or freezer. I would love to find no-sugar peanut butter that doesn't cost a fortune! We go through it so fast around here!

  9. Thank you everyone! I will try some of the peanut butter and jelly might be a slow transition but I've already made one with the bread and so far I don't have massive rebellion. The spread ability of the PB will be the challenge-it seems like the real stuff always tears the bread apart? I'll take all your advice I can get-PB and J is all the kids will pack every day so it's a "big deal"...not in the grand scheme of life but at least at lunch. :)

  10. Hi Sarah, If you find some good baked good recipes with less sugar, I hope you will share them with us! I have wonderful memories of baking with my mother throughout the year, but especially for holidays and birthdays, and I also do not want to sacrifice those moments together. Our family has also tried to reduce the sugar in PBJ. We now use Skippy Natural (3g sugar/serving) and a dime sized amount of Smuckers Fruit & Honey, which is a strawberry jelly sweetened only with honey.

  11. Hi,
    We overcame the hardness of natural PB by buying a small bottle of plain peanut oil. Once a little bit of extra oil is stirred into the jar, we found It heats (from the cold of the fridge) enough to spread easily by opening it on the counter for a few minutes while grabbing the other ingredients.